The Relative Comment

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The most dangerous climate argument: Look at the Numbers, then Just Give Up.

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Robert Samuelson can’t see the forest because he’s only looking at the oil (that was a boreal forest/tar sand joke). In an op-ed at the Washington Post, Samuelson has decided that Obama’s decision to reject Keystone XL is insane. Actually, that it was an act of “national insanity.” His arguments are unconvincing, or at least unoriginal, but worth spending a second or two on. Here are the four key arguments:

1. “Getting future Canadian cooperation on other issues will be harder.” Seriously? You think Canada is suddenly going to spur its allied relationship with the US? Somehow, I doubt that.

2. “It threatens a large source of relatively secure oil.” How? You just said that this oil will be developed, so, not really.

3. “Combined with new discoveries in the United States, [this oil] could reduce (though not eliminate) our dependence on insecure foreign oil.” Probably not. Anytime there is an oil-based argument for reducing our dependency on foreign oil, it’s not going to happen. History is very clear on this. The only solution to reducing foreign oil consumption is reducing oil consumption.

4. “Obama’s decision forgoes all the project’s jobs.” I guess I can’t argue with this. But can continue to ask, at what cost are we willing to take jobs? That’s not a decision, but it’s an important question.

These, though are the small potatoes in comparison to the dangerous defense of Keystone XL that Robert Samuelson makes. The above arguments are just the easy Republican talking points that flutter in the breeze of political rhetoric. Here is the real danger in arguing for Keystone XL:

First, we’re going to use lots of oil for a long time. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that U.S. oil consumption will increase 4 percent between 2009 and 2035. The increase occurs despite highly optimistic assumptions about vehicle fuel efficiency and bio-fuels. But a larger population (390 million in 2035 versus 308 million in 2009) and more driving per vehicle offset savings….Second, barring major technological breakthroughs, emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, will rise for similar reasons. The EIA projects that America’s CO2 emissions will increase by 16 percent from 2009 to 2035. (The EIA is updating its projections, but the main trends aren’t likely to change dramatically.) Stopping Canadian tar-sands development, were that possible, wouldn’t affect these emissions.

This argument is numbers based, and sounds reliable and hard to dispute. But don’t be fooled, this is scary business. It acknowledges that there is a reason to worry about greenhouse gas emissions, but disregards that worry because it is all inevitable. Variations of this argument are everywhere, and they cast aside climate change with a simple brush of the hand. It says, simply, “you cannot do anything about emissions, so do not try; instead, since we are already knee-deep in the muck, why not sink up to the neck.”

And such carelessness needs to be identified. Especially when, on the same day, the scientists are telling us how bad it is.


Written by Christopher ZF

January 20, 2012 at 13:42

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